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BBC screen documentary chronicling the GSA’s new Reid Building

April 30 2014

BBC screen documentary chronicling the GSA’s new Reid Building
The BBC has screened a new documentary charting the delivery of Sten Holl and JM architects Reid Building for the Glasgow School of Art.

Facing up to Mackintosh charts the three year-long design and construction challenge presented by the ambitious build which sits in the shadow of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

Produced in collaboration with four recent graduates, Roberta Knox, Gibran Farrah, Walter Hamilton and Lu-Sisi, the film features interviews with Muriel Gray, Adrian Wiszniewski, Martin Boyce, Steven Holl and Janice Kirkpatrick.

In the piece former Graven Images founder Janice Kirkpatrick lauded the ‘canyon’ feel imparted to Renfrew Street by the new build with fellow Graven director Ross Hunter remarking: “I like the way it puts pressure on the street. They’re squaring up to each other and the two buildings are almost, I wouldn’t say growling at each other, but they’re certainly not trying to get off with each other.”

The full production can be viewed on BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.


#1 Posted by grainy on 30 Apr 2014 at 13:27 PM
its one of the worst things iv i've ever seen on tv. it's like a really long and tedious 30 seconds to mars' video, which in themselves are always irritating, long and tedious. Nothing to do with either building, just the actual documentary itself is unbearable. honestly couldnt stomach it. recored it instead to fast forward through 90% of the black and white footage of meaningless chat.
Ruairidh Moir
#2 Posted by Ruairidh Moir on 30 Apr 2014 at 14:13 PM
I was going to post this before I saw grainy's comments. However I disagree with him entirely.

I thought it is a superb piece of work - both in content and execution. Perhaps if I have one criticism it would have been to counterpoint more the interviews with the criticisms of the building. However everyone who knows the context of this project can read this for themselves upon watching.

I lost sense of time when watching this. The soundtrack is gorgeous. The trance like scenes that dissipate into free moving pixels stick in the mind. The overview of construction from the cranes are epic. The composition of the narrative punctuated with flowing ink drawings was very well considered.

And of course, Newbery tower looked very handsome indeed!
#3 Posted by David on 30 Apr 2014 at 15:48 PM
Ruairidh, I also thought it was a good watch. I found myself glued to it all the way through. Steven Holl didn't come across as I expected he would, and almost at times seemed humble (possibly just for show!). He did break out in a horrible 'This building's gonna be in the history books a'm tellin ya' once though.

I have to say it's definitely growing on me. It seems neither to compete or bow to the Mac, which I suspect is intentional, and the retention of the Union works well to help this idea.

Tenuous link though suggesting the library vertical bay windows in the Mac were his key influence for his 'driven shafts of light'. Who'd have thought...a hollow concrete shaft as a structure...'never been done before ahhh don't think'...hmmm

Good watch none the less
#4 Posted by Jamie on 30 Apr 2014 at 16:23 PM
Enjoyed the documentary it kept me hooked throughout. Well done.
Ruairidh Moir
#5 Posted by Ruairidh Moir on 30 Apr 2014 at 17:42 PM
I think the links between Steven Holl and Mackintosh are deliberately massaged - this thick stone thin glass thing really irritates me, as it displays a glib misunderstanding of Mackintosh's work. There are other instances of protracted and predictable clichés used to try to justify various moves on this building.

Assessing Steven Holl's building on its own merits, for me its triumphs are not making up for its failures... (principally its clumsy massing, poor construction quality in places/ badly considered service runs, non hierarchical spaces arranged but not sequenced). However, once Glasgow 'patinates' it's exterior and the students patinate it's interior it'll undoubtedly improve.

Assessing it with its neighbour across the street, Holl's building is not, in my mind, the masterpiece the site and the brief deserves. I was very skeptical about the scheme when published, and now its built there are a number of elements I think are more successful than I had first anticipated. However I still think it’s a very irresponsible piece of work. I can't seem to shake off the damming impression that the site was more successful without this building there.

I agree with how Holl came across on film, but there was a number of "this is a great building" / "It'll be there for 100 years!" comments too which I thought showed an unearned arrogance which is paralleled with interviews during the construction of this building. I never detected any humility!

However I think keeping the 'Vic' Assembly buildings is another fundamental flaw. Even though the interiors of the Vic are very successful, Holl's building oversails over it (inflaming it's monstrous scale) and then drops down the other side (not supported on a "Driven Tunnel of Light" I might add). It's like an Incredible Hulk has the Vic in a headlock... in a green anabolic rage. Its funny that Shona Reid refered to "an Act of Aggression" which to me is entirely what this building feels like!

Where are the smelling salts!?
Lee Ivett
#6 Posted by Lee Ivett on 30 Apr 2014 at 22:51 PM
It's good, it's even better when you watch it with a bottle of Havana Club and take a swig every time you hear the words Driven and Void
Driven Holl
#7 Posted by Driven Holl on 1 May 2014 at 08:54 AM
Personally I like the Holl building's massiveness. I think the way it faces off with the mac interesting and makes the street quite an intense place to be. The view of it up the hill from sauchiehall st is particularly good. A New York answer to the site. I wish people would stop fawning over it whilst demonising what preceded it though. In many ways Holl's building is more 'brutal' (wrong word...?) towards the mack.

At any rate I tried watching the film. Lovely shots, good music, a tad ponderous. Didn't watch all of it though as a full hour of GSA love fest is a bit much to take in one sitting. Perhaps I'll try Lee's idea.
Alan Dunlop
#8 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 1 May 2014 at 12:25 PM
#faces off? Not brow beats then or cuts off all circulation with muscle bound arm around its throat?
edited version
#9 Posted by edited version on 1 May 2014 at 21:23 PM
Personally I would have preferred the documentary to be cut in half to eradicate the arty stuff that did nothing for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews and would love to flick through Mr Holl's boxes and boxes of sketches - now that would make a good documentary!

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